It all began on July 8, when Mike Pelfrey and two relievers combined on a three-hit shutout against the Giants. The next day, Johan Santana and three relievers orchestrated another three-hit shutout. In the next game, John Maine and four relievers were ultimately responsible for three runs, but once again, the opposition's hit total ended at three. On July 11, Oliver Perez and four relievers combined on a three-hitter. And then, on the final Saturday before the All-Star break, Pedro Martinez and four relievers held the opposition to just one hit in a 3-0 victory.
In a display that lasted five games and 45 innings, and during which a total of 13 hits were allowed, New York had generated the longest streak of surrendering no more than three hits in a game since 1920. The Mets had bested four-game runs by the 1968 Indians, the '69 Indians and the '74 Orioles. They stand as the ultimate target for the 2012 Athletics, who are now 60 percent of the way toward matching the achievement.
Oakland starter Travis Blackley allowed one run in eight innings Thursday, and the A's defeated the Dodgers, 4-1, on Yoenis Cespedes' game-ending three-run home run in the ninth. Blackley and reliever Ryan Cook combined to allow three hits. The hit total marked the third straight game the team finished with no more than three hits allowed and the seventh straight time it held the opposition to six hits or fewer.
Blackley was the fourth A's pitcher to have a start that lasted at least eight innings with no more than one run allowed. Bartolo Colon has three, Tommy Milone has three and Jarrod Parker has one. The total of eight starts for the club places Oakland in a tie with the Phillies, Giants and Mariners for the second most in the Majors. The Angels have the most, with 10.
Thursday's win marked the third time in the live-ball era the Athletics had authored a streak of three straight games of allowing no more than three hits. The other two streaks came in 1952 and '92. It also marked the 25th time this season the A's had allowed no more than two runs. That total ties this club with the Giants and Mets for the sixth most in the Majors. Among American League clubs, only the Angels (28) and White Sox (26) have more.
The seven-game streak of allowing no more than six hits is tied for the longest for the franchise in the live-ball era. In 1981, the club also had a seven-game run.
Gio Gonzalez allowed two runs in six innings, and the Nationals beat the Rays, 5-2, improving to 40-27 for the season.
Gonzalez improved his record to 9-3. He and Stephen Strasburg give the Nationals a pair of nine-game winners. This marks the first time the Expos/Nats franchise has had two pitchers with nine wins at this stage of the season (67 games).
The Nationals have allowed two runs or fewer in 28 games this season, tying them with the Dodgers and Angels for the most in the Majors. Their 40-27 mark ties them with the 1994 Expos for the second-best 67-game record in franchise history. The '79 Expos were 42-25 after 67 contests.
Pittsburgh right-hander James McDonald allowed one run on six hits and recorded his first career complete game, pitching the Pirates to a 9-1 victory over the Twins.
The effort gave the Pirates 27 games this season in which they've held the opposition to no more than two runs. Those 27 are fourth-most in the Majors, behind the 28 by the Dodgers, Angels and Nationals. The most recent time the Pirates had that many such games through 68 contests was in 1992, when they also had 27.
McDonald, who owns the fourth-lowest ERA (2.19) in the National League, has five starts this season in which he has finished with at least seven innings and no more than one run allowed. That total is tied with nine others for the fifth most in the Majors. Only R.A. Dickey (nine), Johnny Cueto (seven), Ryan Dempster (seven) and Felix Hernandez (seven) have more.
Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-4 with a double, triple and three RBIs. McCutchen has six games this season with at least two extra-base hits, tying him with a host of others for the eighth most in the Majors. Joey Votto has the most, with nine.
Here and there
Jimmy Rollins hit his 39th career leadoff home run and moved to within five of matching Brady Anderson for the fourth most in baseball history. In 19 games in June, Rollins is batting .310 and has 13 extra-base hits. Entering the month, Rollins was at .239 with 10 extra-base hits in 49 games.
Quintin Berry's RBI single in the bottom of the 10th gave the Tigers a 2-1 walk-off win against the Cardinals, and pushed Detroit to 34-35 on the season. Since starting their run of Interleague contests on June 8, Detroit has gone 8-4 with a team ERA of 2.72.
Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs, and the Red Sox defeated the Marlins, 6-5, to complete a three-game sweep. Middlebrooks has 31 RBIs through his first 38 games -- tied for the fifth most for any Red Sox player since 1918. Ted Williams had 38, John Kroner had 37, Walt Dropo had 34 and Ike Boone had 31.
While getting swept by the Red Sox, the Marlins scored exactly five runs in each of the three games. Entering this series, the club had scored exactly five runs in 13 contests, and owned an 11-2 record in those 13.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.